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Column: Should high draft prospects skip the NFL combine?

While the league’s COVID restrictions may turn away prospects from participating in the combine, it brings about the question of whether top prospects should skip it anyway.

NFL Combine - Day 6 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

One of my favorite sporting events begins this week: the NFL combine! I’m not sure if it is even considered to be a sporting event, however, who doesn’t love to watch a couple hundred guys run 40 yards and bench press a ton of weight? Then again, who does?

The NFL combine was originally created to receive medical information about the best eligible draft prospects. However, as time has gone on, it has turned into what it is today. Now, the combine puts players from all types of talent backgrounds through physical tests and interviews with coaches, executives and scouts, in addition to medical examinations.

If you are a top draft prospect, it really makes you wonder: how much does it benefit me to put myself through the combine? These prospects already showed why they are the most coveted players in college football— they thrived during the season. So, why would they want to play with other players they aren't familiar with, or risk having a slow or weak day when it comes to the weights?

Personally, if I was one of the best draft prospects, I would not participate in the combine. I would not want to risk possible injury during the workouts or have an off day in general.

Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. was a victim of this a few years ago. He was being discussed as a first-rounder, until the combine. His 5.85 second 40-yard dash, 19.5 inch vertical jump and 82 inch broad jump were the worst at the entire event. Some media outlets claimed it was the worst combine performance EVER.

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Brown dropped to the third round, selected 83rd overall by the Baltimore Ravens. However, he had a great rookie season and was ranked as the league’s 27th best offensive tackle. His college tape was absolutely dominant— shouldn’t that be enough for teams to evaluate a potential player?

This is just one example of how the combine hurt a first round prospect. Another example closer to home is when former Buckeye Billy Price partially tore his pectoral muscle during the bench press. While he was still selected in the first round, it is obviously never a good thing to get injured, especially when you are participating in something that won’t benefit you much.

So, that is why I think top prospects might want to sit out the physical portion of the combine. However, I think it is a great opportunity for lower draft prospects to boost their stock. If you have a freakishly fast 40 time, bench press an unusual amount of reps or make an unbelievable catch during the throwing portion, that could set you apart just enough to seriously catch a team’s eye.

Ohio State’s Vernon Gholston was already projected to go in the first few rounds. However, his 4.58 40-yard dash time was extremely impressive for a linebacker, as was his 37 reps on the bench press and 41 inch vertical leap. This bolstered his stock enough to be selected sixth overall by the New York Jets in 2008.

Wisconsin v Ohio State Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Another well-known combine story is running back Chris Johnson. The East Carolina product broke the record (at the time) for fastest 40-yard dash, with a 4.24 second run. Johnson was predicted to go around the third round, but with the help of his combine performance, he shot up to being drafted 24th overall by the Tennessee Titans.

While it might be silly for a team just to draft a player higher because of his 40-yard dash time or another physical test from the combine, it happens. The players might not always pan out in the NFL, but their combine showing boosted their draft stock.

All of that being said, I simply don’t see a point for top prospects to participate in the combine. If they’re already highly touted, how much is their combine performance going to help them? I think there are more cons than pros to it, but obviously my opinion doesn’t mean anything. Either way, I think that the combine is fun to watch, and can’t wait for it to start Tuesday!


Do you think top prospects should participate in the NFL combine?

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